Are you making up words now, dude? Kind of. Today I want to talk about negative work, a very useful concept and life lesson that my dad taught me.
He who avoids it, prospers. He who doesn’t…well, it’s not good. So let’s see how to avoid it.
How to Avoid Negative Work
What is Negative Work?
This is a term coined by my dad. Negative work is simply work that is unnecessary, wasteful, inefficient, or all of the above. It robs you of your time, energy, and productivity. For example:
- Time and effort spent correcting someone else’s avoidable mistakes.
- Work efforts spent fixing your own avoidable mistakes.
- Doing things that are completely unnecessary.
- Doing things in highly inefficient ways.
Here are some concrete examples:
- Taking a slow route on your daily commute.
- Failing to use technology to speed up tasks.
- Not properly delegating work that could easily be delegated.
- Failing to fix bad processes or routines that consistently produce bad outcomes. In other words, making the same mistake twice, three times, four times, and on and on.
Now that we know what negative work is, let’s look at some ways to avoid it. The reward is an easier and more productive life!
Ways to Avoid Negative Work
I’m a huge fan of technology and think it eliminates enormous amounts of negative work. For example:
- Set up electronic autopay on your credit card accounts. This eliminates the work of mailing out checks every month.
- Have an electronic calendar with reminders. That way, you dispense with the inefficiency of pen and paper.
- Use simple spreadsheets to keep track of the numbers in your life. Bills, investments, you name it.
- Manually doing your taxes is negative work nowadays. Electronic solutions are quick and easy, and less mistake-prone.
- Use Waze or Google Maps to find the most efficient driving routes.
All of these things have a small learning curve, but will then pay dividends for the rest of your life.
Set Up Good Processes
Good processes in certain areas of your life will help you avoid negative work by introducing efficiency and reducing decisional fatigue. Here are some areas you can set up processes:
- Have a set morning routine that you follow every workday. I recommend including exercise (I do Tai Chi) and meditation to set you up for a great day.
- Set up an approach you use to solve problems. For example, you can evaluate the problem, brainstorm solutions, and then test and execute the solutions.
- Implement routines with your kids, especially if they’re very young. That way, they know what to expect at different times of the day and you avoid confusion and tantrums.
An unhealthy body or mind cannot work well and will make frequent mistakes. This is why you need to practice self-care every day. Self-care involves:
- Exercise. My current routine is 5-10 minutes of Tai Chi first thing every morning, weight training 1-3 times per week, and city walks 3-5 times per week.
- Meditate. An app like Headspace or Calm will teach you to keep your emotions at bay by not letting them control you.
- Take breaks and vacations.
- Have frequent fun!
Some tasks are more negative work than they are worth, and you should delegate them. Take the following:
- Excessive cooking (unless you enjoy it). Order delivery every so often to save your physical and mental energy for other tasks.
- Work tasks that someone else can do just as well. Don’t be a micromanager if there are other competent people you can supervise.
- Chores that you can delegate to your kids. This will help teach them valuable lessons and free up your time and energy.
You can even delegate to free and low-cost technology. For example, as a developing stock trader, I delegate my in-depth trade analytics to specialized programs that will do math that I don’t know how to do and would take me countless hours to learn.
Fix Common and Repeated Mistakes
If you find that you or someone else in your workplace or household keeps making the same mistakes, find ways to eliminate them. For example:
- Perhaps someone at work has a task that is not suited to their skillset. In that case, it may be a great idea to reassign it to someone else.
- The same goes for the distribution of household work. If you’re good with logistics, perhaps you should be in charge of keeping your home well-stocked with life’s necessities. As long as the distribution is fair, it’s good to assign people tasks they’re good at and even enjoy.
- Are you constantly late to appointments? Then start preparing a half-hour earlier than you normally would.
Summing It Up
Negative work is perhaps one of the biggest “hidden” destroyers of life energy, happiness, and productivity. A little might be unavoidable, but a lot just sucks and harms you as a person.
That’s why you need to identify and reduce it as much as possible. It doesn’t mean that you need to become a productivity robot; it just means that you make more efficient use of your time so that you have more time and energy to live your life on your terms.
How do you avoid negative work?